Game 74: June 27, 2006
Mets (47-29), 4
Red Sox (46-28), 9
L: Alay Soler (2-2)
W: Jon Lester (3-0)
Two years ago rendered 20 years ago, 31 years ago, 39 years ago, and 60 years ago painless.
Two years ago helped us recognize a remarkable set of players throughout the decades, striking mute the litany of failure and putting in its place a rapprochement of teams that could have been with the fans who almost had.
Three years ago Bill Buckner meant E3. Two years ago Buckner meant 22 years of major league service, a 22-season career of .289 batting, .321 OBP, .408 slugging, 2,715 hits, and 174 home runs. And last night it meant a standing ovation at Fenway Park rather than mislaid scorn.
Joe Castiglione was the emcee for the ceremony celebrating the 1986 American League champion team. More succinctly than I Castiglione noted that 2004 enabled Red Sox fans to acknowledge their history in a positive way. “For those who had come before, for those who had come so close.”
Several members of that team were not able to make it: John McNamara, Dave Henderson, Roger Clemens (who was starting for the Astros), Rich Gedman, Bob Stanley, and Buckner. Castiglione made special care to note that the former first baseman was always welcome to return to Fenway.
Those who were there in person: Lou Gorman, Marty Barrett, Oil Can Boyd, Steve Crawford, Pat Dodson, Walt Hriniak (hitting coach), Bruce Hurst, Tim Lollar, Joe Morgan (not that one, of course), Al Nipper, Spike Owen, Ed Romero, Joe Sambito, Calvin Schiraldi, Dave Stapleton, Mike Stenhouse, Marc Sullivan, La Schelle Tarver, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and Wade Boggs (who, it shall be noted, wore his New York Yankees World Series ring). Time’s passing has plucked a few hairs and added a couple of inches to waistlines, an amusing counterpoint to the scenes from their near-triumphant season played on the screen
The seven ages of man were surmised in the park’s panorama: infants and children in the stands, rookies Alay Soler and Jon Lester on the mound, battle-weary veterans like Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek soldiering on, umpires acting the judge, along with older umpires representing the aged buffoon, and even older fans who can just barely recall those long-gone teams, but now with something more than mere yearning.
Twenty years from now the details of this game will fade from my memory. But for far longer than twenty years I will remember this ceremony, and how one of my inspirations, Peter Gammons, was stricken by a brain aneurysm on that very day.
This game of baseball can be appreciated on levels grandiose to minuscule, but the importance of games pale in the light of struggling for one’s life. If thoughts and well wishes can speed recovery, all of mine go to Groton’s own Baseball Hall of Fame journalist. Get well, Mr. Gammons.